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The week’s critic wrangle: “Fido,” “Eagle Vs. Shark,” “Lights in the Dusk.”

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"My father tried to eat me. I don't remember trying to eat Timmy."
+ "Fido": Andrew Currie‘s film, the latest zombie reevaluation to hit theaters, is intended more to provoke laughs and poke fun at "Lassie" then to carry a message of social import. That just fine by David Edelstein at New York, who describes the film as "[a] shotgun wedding of George Romero and SCTV" and call it "madly funny—a treat for moviegoers who don’t mind gnawed-off limbs with their high jinks." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times concurs, deeming "Fido" a "ticklishly amusing satire" that doesn’t push what could be seen as a slavery allegory: "Unlike Mr. Romero or the zombie comedy ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ where the living are so zombie-like they don’t initially notice the undead, the filmmakers remain content to graze and to nibble, skimming the surface rather than sinking in deep." Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE, on the other hand, does find underlying social commentary in the film: "It’s an alternate history in which the by-now classic metaphor for the unspoken fear lurking beneath the repressed behavior of Fifties mainstream society exists very much out in the open."

Rob Nelson at the Village Voice is less amused: "Within 20 minutes, Vancouver-based writer-director Andrew Currie leads us to stop expecting actual jokes while squandering the talents of an overqualified cast." Nick Schager at Slant finds the film’s inability to define its central allegory dissatisfying:

Consumer products who perform menial labor and household chores, the zombies are sorta like slaves, though the fact that they were defeated in a world war means they’re sorta like integrated Nazis, while their insidious, subversive assimilation into the ’50s nuclear family unit means they’re sorta like communists, and their willingness to have sex with Tim Blake Nelson (as a neighborhood perv) means they’re sorta like undiscerning whores.


Kiwi nerdcore.
+ "Eagle Vs. Shark": It’s seems safe to say that we are over quirk, or so the occasionally virulent reviews of New Zealand director Taika Cohen‘s feature debut "Eagle Vs. Shark," about a romance between, yes, nerdy outcasts, would indicate. On the positive side, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon describes it as "the latest contender for the Napoleon Sunshine cuddly-awkward award," but is still somewhat fond, calling it "a perfectly cheerful time at the movies, without any hint of drama or surprise." A little less keen is A.O. Scott at the New York Times, who writes that the film is "a small, intermittently charming, sometimes tiresome celebration of quirkiness."

From there we go to Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, who cites the film’s clear influences and dubs it "a nerdcore clip show, a sort of straight-faced Epic Movie for fans of discomfort comedy." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly complains that "[i]t’s a tale that reduces angst, not to mention love, to a generational tic." "You can’t see the forest for the twee in writer-director Taika
Waititi’s thicket of cutesy conceits, from the stunted supporting
characters to the precious animated interludes," notes Jim Ridley at the Village Voice.

At Slant, Nick Schager suggests that "Waititi cares less about the selflessness of Lily’s devotion or the intricacies of an amorous relationship than he does pitiful, photocopied Napoleon Dynamite-style gags, of which there are so many that the film’s imitativeness becomes out-and-out embarrassing." And Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE delivers a screed against the film and the "recent trend of offbeat, adorable stillbirths about families of barely lovable misfits learning valuable life lessons in a world of kitschy crap" that we can only suggest you read in its entirety.


Finnish Gothic.
+ "Lights in the Dusk": No one looks to the films of Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki for over-the-top excitement, but what the critics are seeing in his latest deadpan feature is just as lacking in noticeable highs or lows. "Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s deadpan style isn’t always enjoyable," shrugs Armond White at the New York Press, who actually quite likes the film: "While rejecting the specious optimism Hollywood sells, he distills the world to its unadorned truth: work, anomie and frustration." Nathan Lee at the Village Voice is on the other side of the fence: "Delectation of cinematography aside—the picture carefully realizes the visual idea of its title—Kaurismäki has given us no special reason to revisit his coy, claustrophobic universe."

Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club thinks the film represents a step back for the director: "Coming after the much more expansive Man Without A Past, which warmly considered a whole community of Helsinki outcasts, this relentlessly pared-down film feels a little arid and rote, too much like Kaurismäki going through the motions. It’s as if the director, having spent his career trying new variations on a theme, had just decided to go back to square one." No, Kaurismäki’s exactly the same, according to Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE, who lauds the fact that "’Lights in the Dusk’ is nothing more nor less than exactly the kind
film he’s always made. On a handful of occasions throughout his career
he’s plumbed this material better than almost anyone, and even if ‘Dusk’ may not come close to scaling those heights, it’s easy enjoyment
while we wait for the next attempt."

Ed Gonzalez at Slant hilariously asides that the film "suggests what it might be like to stare at Bill Murray in a coma for 75 minutes," but also finds that it is "bound to alienate the filmmaker’s coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking
base with a tone that’s almost holier-than-thou, always teetering on
the edge of self-parody." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon notes the story is "unrelentingly grim," but that "there are sumptuous visual rewards to be found, plus the faintest emotional uptick right at the end," while Stephen Holden at the New York Times also calls out the "exquisite cinematography."

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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